If you only looked at Zack Wheeler's 4.63 ERA entering tonight, you might have thought he was having a disappointing season. However, a deeper look at his peripherals and sequencing revealed that things were not as they seemed. "It's not as bad as it looks for Wheeler" was the headline of Mark Simon's piece at ESPN New York Thursday afternoon, which should have given Mets fans optimism about the young flamethrower going forward. After tonight's dominating start, Simon looks prophetic. Wheeler struck out nine and walked none in 6.1 innings of work, keeping the Phillies on their heels with a mix of upper-90s heat and sharp curveballs.
Wheeler struck out six batters in the first two innings, but he needed 43 pitches to do it. The Phillies ran deep counts, even as his stuff looked great. However, he "settled down" after that, retiring 14 batters in a row on 67 pitches between the second and seventh innings. His ground-ball rate continued to impress as well. It was a solid 53% entering the game, and eight out of ten balls in play against him tonight were grounders.
Wheeler dialed it up to 98 mph at times and made Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard look silly. He finally allowed a run when Marlon Byrd hit a solo home run in the seventh inning. If someone has to hurt the Mets this series, let it be Byrd. Wheeler's ERA dropped to 4.31, while his FIP is 3.50. More ERA regression, please.
Scott Rice relieved Wheeler and retired the brutally bad Domonic Brown on one pitch. Next came Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia, who shocked and awed the Phillies to the tune of six strikeouts and no baserunners allowed in 2.1 innings pitched. Mejia struck out Rollins, Utley, and Howard to close it out as Phillies fans rained boos down upon the field. It was a beautiful scene.
Oh, and the Mets scored some runs too. Travis d'Arnaud came up with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning and grounded into a double play, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. Chris Young opened it up a little with a two-run home run in the fourth inning off Phillies starter David Buchanan. Young went 2-for-4, raising his batting average over the Mendoza Line. The Mets' fourth and final run came in the fifth inning when Curtis Granderson drew a walk with the bases loaded. Lucas Duda followed Granderson but struck out, and Young flied out to end the inning. The Mets went 0-for-3 with the bases loaded and 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Mets have won three games in a row and are 25-28, three games back of the first place Marlins and Braves in the NL East. Game two of the series is Friday at 7:05 pm. The pitching matchup is Rafael Montero vs A.J. Burnett.
Three Stars of the Game
First Star: Zack Wheeler
Second Star: Chris Young
Third Star: Jenrry Mejia
SB Nation GameThreads
Win Probability Added
Big winners: Zack Wheeler +25.7% (as pitcher), Chris Young +20.5%
Big losers: Travis d'Arnaud -9.4%, Daniel Murphy -6.1%
Teh aw3s0mest play: Chris Young two-run home run in the fourth inning, +17.9%
Teh sux0rest play: Travis d'Arnaud double play in the second inning (run scored), -7.6%
Total pitcher WPA: +37.2%
Total batter WPA: +12.8%
GWRBI!: Chris Young two-run home run in the fourth inning